News / Africa

    Nigeria Releases Women, Children Held as Boko Haram

    Heather Murdock
    Nigerian officials say they were demonstrating a commitment to peace talks when the country's security forces released dozens of women and children held in connection with the Boko Haram insurgency. As Nigeria's military continues to hunt down Boko Haram members, though, some analysts say it is too late for dialogue.
     
    Zari Muhammad is free now after being arrested with her husband last year. Her sons had been accused of being Boko Haram members. Now both of her sons are dead and she does not know where her husband is.
     
    Other newly freed prisoners include teenage boys who claim to have taken small amounts of cash to spy or store weapons for Boko Haram, insurgents who say they want to impose Islamic law and secure the release of imprisoned members.

    Renewed calls for peace

    Asking her questions is Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima, a man who repeatedly has called for dialogue between insurgents and the government. He said the release of these prisoners will pave the way toward peace talks, and he calls on Boko Haram to lay down their weapons.
     
    “The federal government has shown its spirit, its commitment to the whole project by releasing these ladies and kids. And we believe that one good turn always deserves another. We believe it is high time the organization should allow peace to reign in this part of the world,” said Shettima.

    Other Nigerian leaders are less enthusiastic about offering pardons - which include cash and often job training - to anyone connected with Boko Haram. The Christian Association Nigeria, known as CAN, repeatedly has rejected calls for peace talks, saying the insurgency should be crushed with military force.
     
    CAN said Thursday its members still are being killed and churches are still being burned in the northeast, where a state of emergency was declared in three states on May 14. Thousands of troops were deployed to the region.

    Battle continues

    Some analysts say they support the idea of peace talks, and hail the government for releasing prisoners they think may not have been guilty in the first place. Hussaini Abdu, who heads the anti-poverty organization ActionAid in Abuja, said, “Innocent people have actually also been arrested. The bulk of the Boko Haram people are young people ranging from the age of about 15, 16 to about 25. So when you find any young man of that age, you arrest him whether he is Boko Haram or no Boko Haram. Many times there is not even evidence to show they are Boko Haram.”

    He said the government has been promising to release women and children for years, but now with the northern battle raging, it may be too late to make a difference.
     
    “The people who are doing the fighting wouldn’t notice because they are also scattered, some of them have been killed. They wouldn’t notice. It’s good for these women who have been unjustifiably detained to be released, but the release is coming at a time that it’s not going to make any major impact,” said Abdu.
     
    The Nigerian military says it has captured hundreds of Boko Haram fighters in more than two weeks of fighting, and it says it has killed dozens of others while securing towns and destroying training camps. In a video released Wednesday to the French news wire service, Abubakar Shekau, the man believed to lead Boko Haram, refuted the military claims, saying Nigerian soldiers were fleeing his fighters.
     
    Between blocked communications lines and barricaded roads, however, no independent observers are on the ground and as of now, reporters can not verify claims of either the military or the militants.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora